Temporary Restraining Order Stops Qadeer From Taking Oath As New Niles-Maine Library Trustee

Seven desks were set out for trustees at the Wednesday, Sept. 21 Niles-Maine District Library Board meeting with the expectation that a new library trustee would be sworn-in. A temporary restraining order by a Cook County Circuit Court judge earlier that day prevented that. (Tom Robb/Journal photo)

Seven desks were set at the Niles-Maine District Library’s board of trustees meeting Wednesday, Sept. 21, ready for the swearing-in of Umair Qadeer, designated by the Illinois Secretary of State to fill a more than year-long vacancy on the board. A temporary restraining order granted earlier that afternoon stopped that swearing-in, however.

Niles-Maine District Library Trustee Joe Makula, through his attorney Daniel Kelly, filed for the injunction on Wednesday, Sept. 7, representing himself in court. That temporary restraining order was granted by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Alison Conlon at 10 am Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Umair Qadeer, appointed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to serve as a Niles-Maine District Library trustee on Friday, Sept. 16 (Photo submitted)

Qadeer did not attend Wednesday’s library board meeting. He and a spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office said Qadeer was asked not to attend the meeting by Secretary White’s office.

The order remains in effect until a scheduled status hearing set for 10 am Friday, Sept. 30, just days after a Tuesday, Sept. 27 deadline for the library to adopt its final budget.

A law passed unanimously by both houses of the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker said when a vacancy is declared on a library board, the board has 90 days to fill that vacancy. If they fail to do so, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, in his role as the state’s head librarian, then has 60 days to do so. If White fails to make an appointment, voters in the next municipal election would fill the vacancy.

“We strongly feel the appointment was the right thing to do and was fully in line with the legislative intent,” Dave Drucker, a spokesman for White, said.

Niles-Maine District Library Board President Carolyn Drblik walks past a line of protesters before Wednesday’s library board meeting. (Tom Robb/Journal photo)

State Sen. Laura Murphy (D-28th) said she introduced the legislation specifically because Niles-Maine District Library trustees were unable to come to an agreement on replacing Trustee Olivia Hanusiak who resigned from the board in August 2021. Since Hanusiak’s resignation, library trustees have been evenly and bitterly divided, with two voting blocs of three trustees each.

Court records said, “Plaintiff (Makula) seeks a declaration that the amendment does not apply retroactively and, accordingly, defendant (Secretary White) may not invoke it to appoint a trustee to the vacancy. Instead, the vacancy must be filled at the next regularly scheduled election in April 2023.”

Attorneys for Makula claimed the 90-day waiting period before the secretary of state to make the appointment and 60 days the secretary could make the appointment before reverting back to voters at the next election, expired on Feb. 12, 2022, before Murphy’s legislation was introduced.

Laura Murphy

In response to that argument, Murphy said the appointment process was not retroactive, saying the “90-day clock” began the day after Gov. Pritzker signed her bill into law before White’s office took over authority to make the appointment.

After that 90 days, White’s office ran legal notices informing the public there was a vacancy and asking for candidates to fill the vacancy.

The attorney for Secretary White referred to in court documents as the defendant, is Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul or his designee.

An attorney from the attorney general’s office was in court, but court records said, “The court afforded defendant an opportunity to file a brief in opposition to the TRO (temporary restraining order) Motion. Defendant did not do so. At (the) hearing, defendant’s counsel offered no argument in opposition to the TRO motion.” Murphy said she would reach out to the attorney general’s office to inquire why a defense was not mounted. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said he could not comment on pending litigation.

On Monday, Sept. 12 the application period to submit letters of interest closed. After vetting 10 candidates who submitted letters of interest, Secretary White sent a letter to Qadeer, copied to the library and the Journal, on Friday, Sept. 16 instructing library officials to swear in Qadeer as a Niles-Maine District trustee at their next scheduled meeting Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White at Niles Mayor George Alpogianis’ swearing in ceremony at village hall last year. (Tom Robb/Journal photo)

As Library Board President Carilyn Drblik arrived for Wednesday’s library board meeting she walked past a line of protesters, many from the Niles Coalition, chanting that she needs to go. Protesters did not see Makula enter the building.

As the meeting got underway, during the public comment portion of the meeting, residents railed against the injunction, including a 13-year-old named Dana, who said, “We need education of the youth, which helps history from repeating.” She criticized board members for cutting spending and said she would form a group at her school to protect the library against trustees.

Former Maine Township Trustee David Carribotta told trustees he thinks the proposed budget should be reduced.

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